The Homestead: All Things Considered

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Cardiologist Dr. Sanjeev Saxena overlooked no detail during the four-year construction of his 17,400-square-foot home atop Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Ala.

story by LARUE HARDINGER | photos by OLIVIA GRIDER

My excitment builds as I round the immaculate  drive approaching the majestic, German-castle-inspired estate of Dr. Sanjeev Saxena, who, at 43, is one of the South’s most distinguished cardiologists.

Saxena could have built his dream home just about anywhere, but it was eight secluded, rolling acres atop Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Ala., that caught his eye. “I thought this spot was picturesque,” he would later divulge, “and it would be close enough into town to take care of my patients in the hospital. I could see the terrain cuts through rock, and I would be able to build a pond with the natural water flow.”

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]Today, rain water empties into a 1/3-acre pond built by Danny Wagner Construction of Fort Payne, and the pond is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish.

Encircled by a paved driveway doubling as a 900-foot walking track, the pond calmly reflects its magnificent backdrop – the 17,400 squarefoot, three-story, stucco-and-stone Saxena abode.

Marble tile echoes my climb to the octagonal front porch. I pause to glance skyward, amazed by the prominent stone turret. Slate roof tiles and round copper gutters serve the exterior well.

Ornate, wrought-iron double doors, sourced from Chinese artisans, are slightly ajar, and inside stands the owner, a candid, engaging and gracious host.

My first glimpse inside his retreat transports me to another place and time. It exudes international intrigue. Stationed to my right is a blonde spinet piano. Wrought-iron handrails of the grand spiral staircase to my left were created onsite and installed by Tod Buford Construction of Rome, Ga. The main level is surfaced with California-sourced Travertine tile and graced by a multi-colored, marble medallion centered beneath the chandelier. The medallion is composed of intricate inlays – also compliments of Buford. Upstairs flooring is hardwood from Shaw Carpet in Dalton, Ga.

“I had many ideas,” Saxena tells me. “For years, I saved magazines with ideas I liked. I especially liked a list I found of overlooked, but needed, features for each room. This house is an expression of all those ideas.”

Saxena’s study of detail is evident everywhere. Buford, a Marvin window certified installer, expertly placed all windows, doors and classic touches, including 12-inch crown molding with apron and 10- inch baseboards with 2-inch base caps.

“I tend to be private,” Saxena says, relaxing in a Z Gallerie, brassriveted, white Italian leather chair beneath the magnificent, 29-foot, coffered great-room ceiling. “There’s a reason my house can’t be seen from the highway.”

Saxena has practiced cardiology for 13 years – all in DeKalb County, where he has cared for more than 15,000 patients. His 14 years of medical school training – including a Miami Cardiology fellowship – culminated with the grand opening of his private practice at Appalachian Cardiovascular Associates in Fort Payne.

He says his 2007 induction as a fellow of the American College of Cardiology is his most prestigious accomplishment. “I am at work a lot,” Saxena adds, “so it’s nice to come home to my own personal escape.”

Saxena moved to Fort Payne in 2002, and within two years, he had envisioned what has become a spacious haven for himself, his fiancée, Charity Nute, and her two children, Ethan, 13, and Ayla, 8 – and canine companions Stella, a malamute, and Duck, a wire-haired fox terrier.

What’s Saxena’s favorite spot in the whole house, I ask? “It depends on my mood!” he smiles. “If it’s cold and I want a fireplace and hot chocolate – the library; if I want to relax with a book – the reading room; if a good game is on – the home theatre; if it’s hot – the pool. Too many to pick just one!”

As I listen, I notice the steamer trunk coffee table between us features handles of leather and upon it rests an 1840s chess set with pieces depicting French revolutionary characters. Beneath my feet is a luxurious, woolen, ivory area rug, which Stella and little Duck find just as delightful as I do.

A glance to my right reveals hardback photo albums, arranged on an end table and embossed with titles denoting family excursions to San Francisco (2012), Washington, D.C. (2013), Los Angeles and Maui (2014).

Construction of the home began in 2007, based on blueprints by Aronson and Associates, a national home-plan firm. “We moved in January 2011,” Saxena recalls, his voice echoing to the balcony above. I glance beyond him and see through the windows a vista of swimming pool, fountains, fire bowls and flower beds popping with reds, oranges and yellows.

Watters and Associates Landscaping of Rome built the pool and added front and rear pavers. Twelve Oaks Landscaping of Fort Payne maintains the grounds, but the flower beds are the handiwork of Saxena and Nute and represent one of three favorite hobbies the couple share – gardening, cooking and travel.

Wayne Caminiti of Fort Payne, Saxena’s friend and project collaborator of 10 years, is a civil engineer who devised the home’s peat-moss septic system, an environmentally friendly design that filters wastewater through peat moss before discharging it into the soil. Saxena, Nute and Caminiti show me about.

“The showpiece of the house,” says Saxena, “is the gourmet kitchen.” The bold sink backsplash and hood are rich, tooled copper, and a matching articulated pot-filler runs water into heavy kettles as they sit on the dual-fuel, 60-inch range. Viking appliances include refrigerator, four ovens, icemaker, trash compactor, twin dishwashers and industrial freezer. A marbled island with bar-stooled curvature features its own sink, instant hot water dispenser and reverse-osmosis water filtering system.

“Time permitting, we both enjoy cooking,” Saxena says. “Mealtime has been a time to sit together, talk about school that day – anything the little ones want to discuss.”

Saxena traveled to a marble quarry in Udaipur, India, to hand-select the rainforest marble found in many parts of the house. He chose brown rainforest for the kitchen and dining countertops and green rainforest for bath countertops and patio, balcony and porch tiles. Rainforest is the name of the pattern in the marble because it mimics an aerial view of a rainforest, Saxena explains.

The kitchen spills into a breakfast nook and family room, with fireplace and window-lined walls offering a view of the mountain woodlands. French doors open onto the lanai and provide easy access to the 6,000 square feet of outdoor-entertainment space.

The swimming pool features two sheer descents into a center depth of 4 feet and is arranged for pool volleyball. Water flows from the spa, down a spillway and into the pool – all illuminated by four fire bowls and an outdoor fireplace. The pool has a Pebble Tec surface and a selfcleaning, electronic-jet system.

Nestled between the great room and foyer is the library, a warm retreat in cherry wood with fireplace, reverse-coffered ceiling and ceiling-to-floor shelving built by Charlie Glover Cabinets of Rainsville, Ala. The shelves brim with books and collectibles from times past. “This room is me,” Saxena says, pointing out three carved, terra-cotta soldier figurines and suits of armor he obtained from an artisan affiliated with The British Museum.

The reading room has a light, but private, feel. A repurposed antique luggage cart serves as a coffee table, and an Irish pub set doubles as an occasional table.

The luxurious guest suite, designed by Saxena for his parents, flaunts a fabulous bayed sitting area with doors that open onto the lanai, a spectacular spa bath with heated floors and towel racks, a kitchenette and regal, carved-oak furnishings.

“This is one of my two most valued pieces of art,” Saxena says, referring to a fused-glass plate purchased at a Florida gallery in 2004. Its hues of vivid royal blue, orange and red, with golden veins spreading throughout, remind me of old-world India spliced into an American seaside.

Saxena’s other most valued piece of art – the oil painting “Orange Sky Sailing” by LeRoy Neiman – hangs in the great room. “I went back to the Franklin Bowles San Francisco gallery over and over for 18 years before I purchased it,” Saxena says. “Rugged sport with vivid back drop. I love the water.”

Saxena’s high-definition home theater boasts nine leather recliners in tri-level stadium seating and a THX sound system. Combined with a 13-foot, Stewart reflective silver screen and three satellite receivers, the room is a first-class entertainment venue.

A wall cabinet houses the Crestron Electronics central system, which controls 15 TVs, the theater system, home speakers, climate sensors and security cameras. Audio and video sources can be selected from a handheld tablet, then directed to a designated screen or speaker.

Tucked behind the theater room is a bay-windowed princess bedroom with marble, sunken tub and spa-jet shower, electric-shade capability and separate overhead- and reading-light controls – a feature of all the bedrooms. Lutron Homeworks lighting controls can set any or all lights to a selected wattage to lengthen bulb life.

The exercise room, complete with weight-lifting and cardio equipment, features mounted TVs, a steam room and bath. A framed bath wall motif in translucent tones speaks to Saxena’s fondness for tulips. “I love many flowers – calla lilies, stargazer lilies, birds-of-paradise, gladioluses, coneflowers, dahlias, orchids,” he notes.

Saxena adapted his home’s plans to make the most use of available space.

“I never set out to build a 17,400 square foot house,” he explains as we descend breezeway stairs to the basement. “From the air, it looks exactly like the blueprints. But my designs added 7,000 square feet of living area. One thing I don’t like is wasted space.”

By altering one area of roof pitch from 4:12 to 12:12, Saxena added a game room, study and art studio above the main-floor east wing. Below is a half bath, maid’s apartment, laundry room, handicap-accessible side entrance and four-car garage, which was custom built for larger SUVs and has Minnesota-sourced cedar doors that insulate as efficiently as walls.

Saxena replaced open space under the guest suite with a finished basement including a man cave, half bath, safe room, second garage and wine cellar that abuts the earth, staying naturally cool. Also on this level are eleven Florida heat pumps providing geo-thermal heat and air (installed and serviced by Clarence Shipman Heating and Cooling of Fort Payne), five 75-gallon water heaters with recirculating pump (meaning instant hot water both indoors and out) and two electrical cabinets drawing 1,200 amps of power through a central disconnect, meaning the basement is generator-ready.

Saxena’s man-cave walls are reclaimed brick from a 90-year-old Mobile, Ala., house. A ’60s-style Coca-Cola logo is the bar light, and bold tiffany lamps overhang the pool table. Four TVs are wall mounted, and exposed ductwork and two-inch copper waterlines overhead give the room a warehouse feel.

Front and center is a 1969 Super Bowl III New York Jets helmet, encased in glass and signed by every player that memorable year – when Alabama native and Jets quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath guaranteed a win over the Baltimore Colts and his team pulled it off.

We ride a hydraulic elevator to the top floor and exit onto a spacious balcony overlooking the great room. To the left, we enter the master suite bedroom and sitting room, divided by a two-sided fireplace.

The room offers a kitchenette and two opulent chandeliers and opens to both a covered balcony and a rooftop getaway carpeted in synthetic grass that looks surprisingly realistic. A birdcage chandelier overhangs stairs leading from the balcony to the main-floor breezeway and is one of four in the home that are winch hoisted for servicing.

Multiple glass-paneled doors fill his and her closets. His bath features a multi-jet master shower room, while her bath is royally appointed with a 500-pound vintage tub, wine cabinet and handmade vessel sink.

Four north bedrooms are decorated in earth tones – chocolate, sage, dusty rose and neutral with a Japanese-cherry-blossom theme for Ayla’s room. Each has a bath, walk-in closet, room-temperature sensor and laundry-chute access.

No convenience or safety aspect seems to be missing in this estate, which includes its own fire hydrant, 10 wall-flush fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and exit signs like those seen in commercial buildings.

The research, thought and time Saxena has invested in his dream dwelling have led to a deep attachment. “This has become my home, and I wouldn’t consider selling it,” he says. “No matter where I live in the future, this will always be home.”

A Continuing Legacy in the Medical Profession

Dr. Sanjeev Saxena is a consummate professional and rather private, so few people know his father was a beloved general surgeon, both in India and rural Georgia, and that his grandfather was an Indian ambassador to the United States.

At age 3, Saxena came to the United States with his brother, Rajeev, 6, and his parents – Dr. Virendra Saxena and Sneh Saxena, who had trained in interior design. Virendra was required in America to repeat his surgical residency and internship. Then “he worked 38 years as a country surgeon, doing house calls,” recalls Saxena. “Whether you had a tonsil, an appendix or a baby that needed to come out, he could do it. He was loved and adored by his patients.

“My parents were tough on me, loving to me, held me to the highest standards and expected perfection out of my school work,” adds Saxena. “They made me the man I am today.”

Saxena chose the specialty of cardiology because it requires one to make tough decisions quickly, with the possibility, at times, of saving the life of someone dying from a heart attack, he says. “There is no greater calling than that,” he adds.

Highlights and recent developments in Saxena’s professional life include:

• Treating more than 15,000 DeKalb County, Alabama, patients during his 13 years at Appalachian Cardiovascular Associates. The staff has grown from six to 14 since the clinic began conducting FDA clinical research trials for treatment of the heart, kidneys, diabetes, stroke and restless legs. See fortpayneheart.com for more information.

• Plans to construct an office-based angiography suite that will be the first of its kind in Alabama. It will enable in-office insertion of stents into leg veins and arteries.

• The opening of Aqua, a Gadsden, Ala., medical spa offering treatment for varicose veins, weight-loss assistance, laser hair removal, dermal fillers and Botox. See aquamedispa.com for more.

• A partnership with Workout Anytime, a 24-hour fitness gym franchisor, to construct 20 affordable gyms between Gadsden and Montgomery, Ala., over the next five years.

• Appointment as the only northeast Alabama representative of the state’s “Make a Wish Foundation” chapter. This charity grants wishes to children ages 2 to 18 who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know a child who might qualify, contact Saxena at 256-997-9200.

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